Call it a worst-case version of the “careful what you wish for” scenario. With the advent of increasingly sophisticated lead-generating technology, more and more hotel salespeople are finding themselves drowning in a sea of electronic RFPs. In turn, a number of those petitioning planners, who initially may have considered the zippy lead processing (by Cvent, StarCite and other electronic channels) a boon, are finding themselves bogged down, vetting their own onslaught of RFP responses, many of which don’t come close to meeting their needs.
“The proliferation of RFPs due to technology is amazing,” says Conference Hotels Unlimited’s Donna Wikstrand, who says the fault is on both sides when it comes to reasons behind the deluge. “If I really wanted to, I could send about 100 RFPs with just the push of a button, which would create a big challenge for hotels,” she says. Likewise, “when you’re in a regional sales system, it just compounds that process because you have so many RFPs coming at you,” much more than if you’re just handling RFPs at one hotel.
Big hotel brands like Hyatt and Marriott agree that the enormous influx of leads isn’t helpful, wasting time and money and producing conversion rates much lower than traditional voice and email routes. “It’s broken,” Hyatt Hotels Corporation Senior Vice President of Sales Jack Horne told Business Travel News. “This whole thing got out of control almost overnight on us.” Marriott, similarly, saw an almost 50 percent increase in the number of e-RFPs it received from 2010 to 2011. Software solutions may help correct the situation, and individual hotel companies are devising their own strategies to quickly separate good leads from the ones that aren’t so promising, or what Marriott calls “lead triage.” A less techy but more practical idea: keeping RFP requests in line. “Too many choices can sometimes be a bad thing,” says Wikstrand. “I try to make my clients hone them down.”